Viva la Resistance!: Part Three
The cellars of the Docklands area were old damp affairs that in some places largely resembled the Catacombs in the east of the city. To call them glorified caves wouldn’t be an exaggeration.
It was clear to Fredrick that this resistance movement wasn’t comprised entirely of the homeless and destitute. By the standards of the Docklands slums, a house with a cellar was a palace.
Burning torches and candles lit up the room at the end of the staircase. A loose canvas banner was draped across the wall at the far end that proclaimed ‘Down wiv Jennings!’ in violent red lettering.
About a dozen Neopets were gathered in the cellar, maybe slightly more. Fredrick absorbed every detail he could about them, while also noting the features of the room. There seemed to be a curtain hung in one corner, covering a passage that led away elsewhere. Three Neopets stood away from the main crowd at the back of the room. They radiated the air of people in charge.
“Hello dear, you’re a bit late,” a kindly old green Cybunny greeted Fredrick as he walked into the room. “We’re about to start.”
“I... forgot the code,” Fredrick stated in his best innocent voice.
“You have no idea how many times I’ve done that!” the old Cybunny laughed, squinting through her glasses at him. “Lost your code book, have you?”
“I’m always losing things, always helps to have a spare. Here,” the Cybunny replied, discreetly handing over a small battered looking booklet.
“Thank you,” Fredrick replied, pocketing the book.
“And who are you?” a voice asked from behind Fredrick. “I don’t remember seeing you at any meetings.”
Fredrick wheeled round. The yellow Bori that he had followed was now stood in front of him, eyeing him suspiciously.
“I’m Colin, Colin Lopside, you don’t remember me?” Fredrick lied quickly, breathing new life into his assumed character.
“Oh yeah? And where are you from, ‘Colin Lopside’?” the Bori asked accusingly.
“I live on the Old Shambles,” Fredrick lied.
Well, it wasn’t exactly a lie, he did have a place he stored his stuff there above a disused butchers. Fredrick had to think quickly; if these people were professional, they’d follow him when he left the meeting.
The Bori leaned back.
“The Shambles, eh? I have a brother who lives there. You know Bert Durbin?” he asked.
Fredrick noticed the small movement in the Bori’s eye as he spoke. He recognised a lie when he heard one.
“Never heard of him,” Fredrick answered.
The Bori smiled.
“That’s right, I’ve got no brother,” he sneered.
“Now, Morris, there’s no need to be so suspicious of everyone,” the old Cybunny said, taking Fredrick’s hand.
“There’re spies everywhere, Mrs. Jenkins, we can’t be too careful,” the Bori grunted.
At the front, one of the three important Neopets, a starry Yurble, clapped his hands.
“Let’s get started, everyone, I shall say this only once,” he called. “We’ve got much to discuss.”
The crowd of gathered Neopets rushed forward, onto a few wooden pews that seemed to be the only furniture in the room. Fredrick found himself trapped between Mrs. Jenkins, the old Cybunny, and Morris, the Bori.
“Thank you all for coming again, brothers and sisters. There have been some startling developments that Number One wishes to share with us,” the Yurble greeted them.
The Yurble rushed to the back of the room and stood with the other two Neopets. Gradually, eyes turned towards the curtain in the corner which Fredrick had noted earlier.
“Thank you, Number Three,” a voice from behind the curtain boomed.
Fredrick had to suppress a laugh. This resistance was using every trick in the book. Using numbered codenames, a mystery leader that never appeared in person, codebooks, and clandestine meeting halls. The only thing they were missing so far was a secret handshake, though Fredrick imagined that would probably appear later on.
“We have much to discuss. Jennings has made much progress, and we must thwart him quickly,” the voice of Number One continued.
Fredrick noted that it was a deep and confident voice, but there were subtle twinges in it. It was as if whoever was talking was putting the voice on and normally talked in a far quieter, timid tone.
As the unseen voice continued to drone on about rights of the little people, Fredrick’s attention wandered to the three Neopets at the front.
If it was a proper revolutionary group, of course, there would be no Number One. Not really, at least. He would be a nameless figurehead, a crony brought in to draw attention while the true power, the Neopets at the front, crafted events in secrecy.
The starry Yurble that had been identified as Number Three was listening patiently to the speech. He looked vaguely familiar to Fredrick, though he couldn’t remember quite where he’d seen him before.
Sat next to him was a female Ixi that looked quite annoyed to be there. Her eyes carried the look of money, even from across the room.
Fredrick’s eyes moved to the third and final Neopet, and his heart almost skipped a beat. He recognised the yellow Skeith on the end. He hadn’t thought about it when he’d first taken in the room, but he was so familiar. Everyone who grew up in the Docklands knew him.
He was Seth Vargo, of Vargo Industries, the construction firm that had built most of the buildings in Neopia Central. The manual labour force he employed made up most of the inhabitants of the Docklands. When Fredrick had been on the streets, he was the local boss, the man to be feared. It didn’t help that he also forced most of the Docklands to pay him protection money, for fear of his hired goons.
A thought struck Fredrick. The file Mr. Jennings had been reading during their meeting had been about the movements of Seth Vargo. Did Jennings suspect Vargo was involved?
More importantly, Vargo was one of the biggest criminal bosses in Neopia Central; he rivalled the Thieves Guild in terms of power. For Vargo to be here... was Jennings really considered that much of a threat?
“...and together, we will overthrow this tyrant, before it is too late!” the voice of Number One continued.
Clapping and cheers rose up from the gathered revolutionaries.
“We will meet again tomorrow night, I will have important news for you then. Viva la Resistance!” the voice finished.
“Viva la Resistance!” the others echoed, and Fredrick quickly joined in.
The meeting appeared finished, as talking quickly broke out amongst the Neopets in the cellar.
“I’m sick of all this talking,” Morris the Bori growled from next to Fredrick. “It’s time for action!”
“I’m sure we’ll be doing things soon enough,” Mrs. Jenkins said dismissively as she stood up. “I’d best be getting back, it’s not safe out these days.”
Slowly, the Neopets filled up out of the cellar, and out into the street. The guard Bruce on the door made sure to give each and every one of them a suspicious look as they left.
Out on the street, people began to go their separate ways. Normally Fredrick would have lingered, and followed the Yurble or the Ixi in order to find out their identities, but he suspected he would be followed.
Instead, he retrieved his briefcase from the alley, and made his way back to the Old Shambles. It was a tiny street with overhanging houses that was once home to the butcheries of the Docklands. Such stores had moved on to the high profile world of the main Marketplace, but the shells of the industry, and a few backstreet butchers, still remained.
Fredrick had long ago found a disused flat above one of the shops which he used as a safe house whenever he was in town. Once he was in, he locked the door and pushed a chair against it, just in case.
He chanced a glance through one of the broken windows, down at the street below. He thought he caught a glimpse of a figure shrinking back into the shadows. He was right; he had been followed.
Fredrick sat himself down on the mouldy old mattress that he used as a bed and began to sort through the jewellery he’d stolen earlier that day.
This was all so different to what he usually did. Robbing the rich and the stupid was one thing, but these were good, honest people.
No... no, that wasn’t what was bothering him.
Normally he was robbing harmless old rich people, who posed no threat to him. The most dangerous criminal he’d ever met was Joseph Shome, the best con man ever to live, and the worst he’d done was break Fredrick out of the Altador dungeons. But this was different.
They were dangerous people.
They were revolutionaries. There’s only one way a revolution can end.
These people wanted Mr. Jennings gone, and Fredrick was working for him. He was caught in their path, and if they even suspected his true intentions for a second, his life would be in danger.
A dungeon was all Fredrick had really had to fear in the past, and he’d escaped from enough of them in his time to know that they weren’t all that bad.
He put away the stolen jewellery and lay back on the mattress, which reacted with an unpleasant squelch.
As Fredrick drifted off to sleep, he kept one eye on the door, just in case.
To be continued...